Westchester Q&A: Should Small Businesses Embrace The Cloud?

How are small businesses using the Cloud at this time?

There are a number of different ways small businesses can use the cloud. In fact, some are unaware that they’re using it all. For example, for our clients with an in-house Exchange Server, we use a third-party cloud service to filter spam and malicious messages. A recent and popular trend is for businesses to outsource email to cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365. You get a robust email system with practically no upfront costs and several flexible options. Another good example is backup. Many businesses are wisely turning to offsite cloud-based disaster recovery solutions now that prices are reasonable.

What are the advantages of using the cloud?

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The biggest benefit to small businesses of using the cloud is the lower capital expense required to purchase and maintain equipment in-house. A good example is e-mail. For a lot of businesses it makes more sense to subscribe to a cloud service thus avoid a large capital outlay. It’s the lease-versus-buy analogy. There are many different factors to consider when evaluating whether to use the cloud, but as the technology matures and improves, those advantages will only increase.

What does a small business have to look out for when using the cloud?

There are some pitfalls you need to be aware of when using the cloud, since it is not always the better service compared to maintaining service locally. This is especially true when considering the lower cost “shared” computing environments where many customers are using the same hardware. In this case, the processing speed in the cloud will be slower than in-house equipment. There’s also a misconception that by using cloud you don’t have to worry about security and backup. Should the provider you’re subscribing to have a problem or suddenly ceases to exist, what happens to all of your data? How will you gain access to it? If you’re subject to regulatory compliance such as HIPAA, PCI or SOX, you need to be especially concerned about your potential exposure since you’re trusting third-party providers with your systems.

What lessons can be taken from the recent examples of iCloud security issues?

First and foremost, you need to know who your providers are. Be certain to thoroughly vet your cloud vendors to ensure that you fully understand what security measures they employ. You need to have a mentality of healthy mistrust and remain vigilant of your own security instead of blindly trusting an outside vendor.

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Do you have any predictions on the future of cloud usage?

We are seeing more and more cloud adoption with time. Traditional software companies used to offer cloud services in addition to premises-based software. However, we’ve seen a big change lately where there’s no difference between the two different services and some vendors are solely offering a cloud subscription for their software. It thus becomes easier to move all services to the cloud when the primary Line of Business (LOB) applications have moved there.

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